In her first State of the City address, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass announced a significant expansion of her flagship initiative to transfer homeless individuals indoors. During her speech, she promised to build “a new L.A.,” with a $1.3 billion investment in housing and homelessness initiatives, including $250 million for Inside Safe. The initiative has been transferring unhoused persons off the streets and into hotel and motel rooms, and it will now expand its mandate to include the purchase of buildings completely.
Bass also promised to boost the Los Angeles Police Department’s ranks, which she worries may fall below 9,000 officers, a level not seen since 2002. She pledged a new recruitment campaign and financial incentives for municipal employees who support recruits, as well as the establishment of a new Office of Community Safety focusing on unarmed emergency response.
Speaking to a crowded room of civic and community leaders in City Hall’s council chambers, Bass underlined the importance of collaborating with other government agencies to address homelessness and other regional issues. In keeping with this strategy, she invited members of the City Council and the County Board of Supervisors to speak at the occasion, despite the fact that the mayor is usually the only one who speaks.
Since its inception four months ago, the Inside Safe program has expanded to approximately a dozen establishments in Venice, Hollywood, Echo Park, and South Los Angeles. Some homeless advocates, however, have expressed concern about the projected enormous growth, which is a fivefold increase over the amount granted to the program early in Bass’ term. They’ve set up a website detailing the program’s flaws, with mutual assistance organizations slamming the mayor’s staff for relocating some Inside Safe members from hotel to hotel or putting them in rooms far from the neighborhoods where they’ve been living.
Inside Safe facilities, according to campaigners, have lacked basic social services, such as mental health doctors and substance-use counselors in some cases. Bass’ homelessness team has stated that they are gaining lessons as they sweep up more and more encampments. According to them, several Inside Safe members were relocated after the mayor’s team discovered that their motel accommodations were deplorable.
Despite the criticism, Bass claims that the Inside Safe initiative has succeeded in debunking the misconception that people do not want to come inside. The program will focus on purchasing structures rather than just renting hotel and motel rooms in the coming year.
Aside from homelessness, Bass’ speech touched on a variety of other issues, including climate change, paramedic response times, pothole repairs, city staff shortages, and graffiti on motorways and underpasses. The mayor’s proposed budget, depending on the specifics of her spending plan, will almost certainly dedicate more money to solving the homelessness epidemic than in prior years. Then-Mayor Eric Garcetti used his own State of the City address two years ago to offer nearly $1 billion in funding to combat homelessness, which has gradually increased over the last decade.
Bass’ plans to restructure the police department and invest in a new Office of Community Safety have received some support, including from Councilmember Tim McOsker, who represents neighborhoods near the port, as well as Watts. McOsker stated that he agrees with Bass’ priority on strengthening LAPD staffing.